Thank you, Mr Welles

Reblogging this personal tribute to Orson Welles from 2013. Not many of you will have seen it before.

beetleypete

Orson Welles is considered by many to be the greatest film maker in history. I do not necessarily agree with that, although I do consider him to be one of the greatest actors of all time. His voice alone is worth a career, let alone his charismatic presence in a film.

As a very young man, I was captivated by him on film at the cinema, and on TV, when his films were shown there. His brief appearances in ‘The Third Man’, lift the film totally, and his wry grin steals every scene that he is in. Whatever you might think of him, his talent is surely indisputable, and from an early age, he showed the touch of genius that would characterise his life in cinema. The ensemble cast of his best known films, ‘The Magnificent Ambersons’, and ‘Citizen Kane’, was to follow him throughout his all too short film…

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Virus Deaths: One Story

I read something on a local newspaper website earlier this week. I went back to get a link to add here, but it has been taken down. Presumably to save the family from more distress.

We are all reading about deaths from the virus, all around the world. As the numbers get bigger, they stop becoming people, and are just numbers. I read that 1,000 people have died fom the virus in the USA. Can you imagine seeing 1,000 dead bodies laid out in a line? I once saw more than 20 bodies at the scene of a train crash. It looked like a lot of bodies. And I was an EMT, so used to seeing such things.

1,000 bodies arranged in a line would stretch almost 3,000 yards. That’s 1.7 miles. That distance would take almost 30 minutes to walk, at a normal pace. Hard to comprehend, I know.

So let’s just think about one person who died because of this virus, and the impact on his family.

A local man in his fifties had a mild heart attack last year. He had a stent procedure to open a coronary artery, was put on blood-thinning drugs, and sent home. He went back to work as normal, and returned home to his wife and two twenty-something children who still lived at the house. Just over a week ago, he woke up with a very high temperature, so stayed off work. The next day he had a very bad cough too. Covid-19 was suspected, and the call was made to the family doctor. That doctor decided to send an ambulance to take the man into the emergency department of the local main hospital.

He had to travel without his wife and family of course. They were not allowed to get close to him as he was taken to the ambulance, so no goodbye kisses. Then because they were in a house where those symptoms were found, they all had to self-isolate. Calling the hospital that night, they were told that he was ‘seriously ill’. The next day, someone called them to tell them he had died.

Imagine that. No goodbyes, no last moments together, no chance to comfort the man she had been married to for thirty years.

The funeral was just 24 hours later, a cremation arranged by a local undertaker. The family was informed that only ten mourners could attend. But as they were self-isolating, they were not allowed to go. Any relatives or friends that might usually have attended did not want to travel during this crisis. So the man was cremated in an empty facility. The undertaker sent a bill, adding that they understood it would be some time before payment could be made. The ashes would be sent to her in due course.

That’s it. Thirty years together comes down to three phone calls, and it’s all over.

Then the everyday problems begin. To get an official death certificate, you have to attend the appropriate department at the Town Hall, with the initial certificate given to you at the hospital. But you are self-isolating, and are not allowed out. Even if they could go out, the office is closed because of the lockdown of workplaces. And you would not be allowed into the hospital to collect their form, as you were too close to someone who died from Covid-19.

Without that death certificate, you cannot access the man’s bank account or savings. Cannot cancel his credit card, or any other payments still going out of his account. You cannot make a claim on his life insurance, sell his car, or do a dozen other things that have crossed your mind will need doing.

On top of your grief, you have to deal with all that stuff too.

Then there is the worry. What about me? What about the chldren? Will we get it now? You can’t seek comfort from relatives and friends either, because you are not allowed out. Anyway, it wouldn’t be a good idea, even if you were.

In the last 24 hours in Spain, 832 people died. Imagine that story above, mutiplied by that figure.

That’s the reality. Are you scared yet? You should be.

Yes still, social media is showing people, mostly young people and teenagers, who think it is funny to spit on food in supermarkets, or rub their saliva over the handles on public transport. Parcel delivery people spitting on parcels that they then hand to a recipient, idiots licking toilet seats, some deliberately touching things in shops then replacing them, and even claiming that Covid-19 is a hoax, and doesn’t exist. Some of those videos have been shared over half a million times, watched by giggling youngsters who think it is all a great joke.

Try telling that to the wife of the man who died near here this week.

McDonald’s: The Last Bastion Falls

Rutland is the smallest county in England. Only 17 miles long by 18 miles wide, it is land-locked, and has a population of less than 40,000.

It has just two towns of any size, Oakham and Uppingham. The most significant feature of the county is a huge artificial lake, Rutland Water. This is a nature reserve, and an important site for wildlife, especially breeding birds.

But Rutland is also famous for something else. It is the ONLY county in England that does not have a McDonald’s restaurant. The attractive historical streets of Oakham and Uppinham do offer a selection of cafes and restaurants, as well as many privately-owned traditional shops. But no fast-food outlets have ever been allowed to spoil the area.

That might all change, at a local Council meeting this evening. On a site just outside the town of Oakham, the burger giant has requested planning permission to build a 24-hour drive through restaurant. One of the larger types that have been seen here over the past couple of years. The benefits to the community are more than being able to buy some chicken nuggets at two in the morning. In an area of high unemployment, sixty new jobs will be generated, and valuable taxes paid into the local economy by the American company too.

Poorer families in the area will be able to take advantage of ‘meal deals’ and cheaper fast food, without having to drive into neighbouring counties to do so.

The population of Rutland appears to be divided by the issue. Existing cafes and restaurants will undoubtedly suffer, especially in the long term. Rubbish will be generated by thoughtless customers flinging it from car windows, or dumping it around the town. And it is inevitable that other jobs will be lost in eating establishments that cannot compete with the popularity of McDonald’s.

As I type this, it seems likely that the Town Council will approve the application tonight, and building will start. I would not deny that the town needs jobs, or that people should be able to buy a Big Mac if they want one.

But I am sad. Sad that the smallest county in my country, the only one to have never approved a McDonald’s, has finally succumbed to globalisation.

Alexa, Google, and Cookies: The frightening reality

I don’t have a ‘digital assistant’. But my wife used to have ‘Google Assistant’ active on her phone. She liked that it allowed her to ask her phone a question, without having to type it in.

Many people love their ‘Amazon Alexa’, using it to do many things in their lives, especially to remind them of appointments or dates, or to play music.

We all know that ‘Cookies’ trace what we search for online, and most of the sites we browse on the Internet. We can refuse to allow Cookies in the main, though that will often mean you are unable to look at something, for example a news website in full.

In our modern society, many people complain about the intrusion into our lives. Excessive CCTV, tracking of credit card use, tracking of bus and train ticket use, and much more. Unless you walk everywhere, and keep all your money in a box under your bed, you can be sure that your habits are being tracked, like it or not.

But the ‘digital assistants’ take this to another level, and in my opinion, one that should cause us all concern.

Here are two examples of why I believe this to be true.

Earlier this week, we were watching TV in the evening. My wife’s phone was connected to the home wi-fi, but she wasn’t using it at the time. It was sitting on a side table, the screen black. During a break in the programme, she turned to me and started to talk about what had happened in the first part. Just general chit-chat, nothing too private. The screen on her phone lit up, and she picked it up, presuming someone was calling, or sending a text.

She was shocked to see that her phone was typing what she had been saying. She turned to me and said, “It’s typing everything I have just been talking about”. As she said that, it continued to type those words too. She went into settings, and disabled Google Assistant. The phone didn’t like that, and popped up a warning that ‘You will be unable to access many features of your phone if you do this”. If it could have spoken those words, I have no doubt it would have sounded very much like the voice of Big Brother, in the film of Orwell’s novel.

Once it had been uninstalled, she was unable to find where it had stored what it had been typing. Her words had disappeared into the Great Google Hard Drive, somewhere in America, presumably.

This morning, we were unpacking a parcel. It was a buggy and car seat combination that we had ordered for my step-daughter’s new baby, due in two weeks. As we struggled with the huge carton, my wife’s phone rang, and it was her daughter. A happy coincidence. They switched their phones to the Facebook equivalent of face-time, and she was shown the cartons laid out on the carpet. As they carried on chatting, I went back into the office room to continue checking on blog posts.

I had been reading one from Lobotero, concerning ISIS and Iran. Scrolling down to the end, an advertisement popped up at the bottom of his site.

It was for the exact same buggy and car seat combination. The same model, and the same colour. Stupidly, it suggested I should order one, and even offered a discount voucher. Perhaps they thought I would buy two of them, for one baby?

Of greater concern was the fact that Facebook had obviously been monitoring my wife’s phone camera activity on their site. In less than forty seconds, that had generated an large advertisement on the website of an unconnected American blogger, directly targeted at me.

If they can do that, I have to wonder what else they can do.

Things I don’t like

Back on the ‘Reblogging Trail’, I found this old post from 2013. Only three of you have seen it, I think.
I was quite outspoken back then! Look how much I have calmed down now. 🙂

beetleypete

I saw a bit of a TV programme called Room 101. Minor celebrities compete to get things they hate put into ‘Room 101’ by the host, symbolising the removal of those things, on a permanent basis. It is supposed to be funny, and it isn’t at all. However, it got me thinking about things that I would like to ban, or make disappear, and here is a short list of them.

Centre Lane drivers. On a three lane motorway, there are always drivers who insist on never moving out of the middle lane. They usually drive quite slowly, or just on the legal limit, making it hard for slow lorries to get out of the left lane, or for other drivers who have overtaken them, to move back in safely. Even when there is no traffic, say during the early hours of the morning, they still hug this middle lane…

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Whac-a-mole

Another post reblogged for new followers. Some of you will remember this one. My candidates haven’t changed since I wrote this, but feel free to add your own choices in the comments. 🙂

beetleypete

Whac-a-mole is a fairground/arcade game that involves hitting toy moles with a mallet, as their heads pop up out of the five holes on the game’s surface. For a better description of this, please see the following Wikipedia link; that is if you are not already conversant with the general idea.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Whac-A-Mole

I have a different concept of my version of this game, call it a fantasy, if you will. In my version, the machine would be large; large enough to accommodate humans. It would sit in a cellar, or shed, somewhere out of earshot, and away from prying eyes. Inside, would be the people that annoy me the most. The smug, the self-important, the self-satisfied, swollen of ego, and enjoying undeserved reputations. Those that think that they really are ‘it’, and that their music, or skills, or humour and personality are beyond criticism. They believe that what they have…

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Techno fear

Another old post from 2012, lamenting the addiction to technology, and the controlling practices of the major electronics corporations. It only had one like and comment, so nobody should remember it. 🙂

beetleypete

There is something sinister about the way that Technology creeps up on you. One day, life is going on as normal, and the next, you can’t remember how to use a telephone box, or even know where to find one. I can almost remember the last time I made a call from a public kiosk, queuing patiently, until it was free to use. Then, in what seemed an instant, I had a mobile phone in my hand, and I have never used a public box since; though I still had a phone card in my wallet, until very recently.

Can any of you remember what life was like before mobile phones? Imagine breaking down in your car, on a country road, late at night, in an unfamiliar area. You had to walk for an unknown time, until you could find a telephone box to use, to summon assistance. You also…

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